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Woman found not guilty; Charges included child endangerment.

Byline: Aaron Nicodemus

WESTBORO - A Hopkinton woman was found not guilty of drunken driving and child endangerment in Westboro District Court yesterday, after her friend refused to testify against her.

The charges against Sarah A. Dempsey, 26, of 6 Fruit St., Hopkinton, stemmed from a Aug. 31, 2006, Westboro accident in which a 1999 Ford Explorer that police alleged Ms. Dempsey was driving flipped over onto its roof. A 2-year-old boy was strapped in the vehicle's back seat. While both Ms. Dempsey and the boy were treated at a nearby hospital at the time, neither was seriously injured.

Westboro police said the sport utility vehicle belonged to Theresa O'Doherty, 26, of Northboro, and that the 2-year old boy was Ms. O'Doherty's son. When police arrived at the scene, they found Ms. Dempsey on the ground outside the Explorer. She had injuries consistent with being in a crash, and her breath smelled of alcohol, police said.

Ms. O'Doherty was at the scene of the accident as well, having arrived there in a friend's car, police said. She had already removed her son from the overturned vehicle. Ms. O'Doherty was not injured and was not brought to the hospital, police said.

But the prosecution was unable to prove its case to Judge Paul S. Waickowski in court yesterday, largely because Ms. O'Doherty invoked her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, according to a spokesman for Worcester District Attorney Joseph Early Jr.

The case hinged on the police being able to establish who was driving," said DA spokesman Timothy J. Connolly. "The defense surely would have raised the question about who was driving."

Assistant District Attorney Shane Surrette put Ms. O'Doherty on the stand to answer questions about what happened that night, according to Mr. Connolly.

"She was at the scene of the accident," Mr. Connolly said. "It was the prosecution's assumption that she would be able to tell the judge what happened." After giving her name, Ms. O'Doherty refused to testify, saying that she had been advised not to say anything more by her lawyer.

That left the testimony of police, who found both Ms. Dempsey and Ms. O'Doherty at the accident scene, and neither one behind the wheel of the vehicle.

When contacted at home after the trial, Ms. Dempsey said she was relieved at the outcome.

"I'm just glad it's over, I'm just ready to continue on with my life," she said. "It's been a long time coming, two years. All the facts were there, they weren't able to put the pieces together."

When asked why Ms. O'Doherty refused to testify, Ms. Dempsey replied, "You'd have to ask her."

Ms. O'Doherty could not be reached for comment.

In his ruling, Judge Waickowski also found Ms. Dempsey not responsible for a marked lanes violation.

At the time of the accident, Westboro Patrolman Kristofer Haws wrote in his report that when the night began, Ms. Dempsey and the 2-year-old boy were passengers in Ms. O'Doherty's SUV. Ms. O'Doherty stopped at the Ruby Tuesday's restaurant in Westboro for a brief time, leaving Ms. Dempsey and the child in the SUV.

When Ms. O'Doherty left the restaurant a brief time later, Ms. Dempsey had driven off, police said. Ms. O'Doherty tried to follow the Explorer in the vehicle of another friend, but lost sight of it, police said. She eventually found the vehicle, upside down, on the lawn of The Willows at Westborough on Lyman Street.

Westboro Police Chief Alan R. Gordon told The Telegram & Gazette in 2006 that Ms. Dempsey was driving on the wrong side of the road, and that the vehicle hit a curb and rolled over. One of the police photos taken at the scene was of a six-pack of Corona beer, with one of the beers half-empty.

He said the accident occurred largely because of an error in judgment because Ms. Dempsey had been intoxicated.
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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Aug 13, 2008
Words:645
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